How kids play - month by month

What are the developmental stages of play for the first two years of a child's life? What kind of games and toys are best for each stage? Dr. Katie Heathershaw, Fisher-Price Play IQ™ expert and paediatrician, explains how children play, month by month. 

The first two years of a baby’s life are incredibly transforming. Your baby will start life totally dependent on you, indicating their care needs by crying, before growing into a toddler who can express their personality, engage in imaginative play and start to communicate in a meaningful way with you and the world around them. The team at Fisher-Price™ believes in inspiring children to learn and develop through play. To help Mum understand and navigate their child’s development, Fisher-Price™ have created Play IQ™, an interactive online tool. Fisher-Price Play IQ™ details the different milestones along the way from birth to two years old, which you’ll find referenced throughout below. By taking the Play IQ™ quiz you can understand the milestones your little one has already mastered, find out their play persona and receive an individualised developmental plan telling you what milestones to look out for next.  The development plans also includes games, toys and activities to help them along the way. 

Throughout the Play IQ™ tool there are many milestones in each age group, such as ‘The Watcher’, ‘Head Turner’, and ‘Curious Baby’. These are designed to help Mum ‘tick-off’ their little one’s milestones.

Fisher-Price Play IQ™ Milestones


Fisher-Price Play IQ™ Milestones your baby may start to demonstrate

1 month

The Zoom (Physical); The Watcher (Physical); The Supriser (Physical); The Closed Fists (Physical); Same Face (Cognitive)

2 months

Happy Waver (Physical); Noise Ahead (Physical); The Plotter (Cognitive); The Maker (Cognitive); All Smiles (Social & Emotional)

3 months

Elbow Raiser (Physical);  Head Turner (Physical);  The Swiper (Physical);  Play Waver (Physical); Knowing Looker (Cognitive); Happy Baby (Social & Emotional)

4 months

In Reach (Physical);  Play Grip (Physical);  Curious Baby (Cognitive); Hand Dancer (Cognitive); The Giggles (Social & Emotional)

5 months

Grip Reacher (Physical); Belly Back Roller (Physical); World Explorer (Physical); The Juggler (Cognitive); Toy Accepter (Cognitive); Smile Hello (Social & Emotional)

6 months

Support Sitter (Physical); The Searcher (Cognitive); Peek and Patter (Social & Emotional); The Multi-Tasker (Social & Emotional); Centre-Piece (Social & Emotional)

7 months

Tummy Mover (Physical); The Viewer (Physical); Eye Explorer (Physical); Thumb Pusher (Physical); In and Out (Cognitive); Name Reaction (Cognitive); Name Knower (Social & Emotional)

8 months

Crawlin’ (Physical); Small Pieces (Physical); Smooth Performance (Cognitive); Object View (Cognitive); Memory Lane (Cognitive); Sound Machine (Social & Emotional)

9 months

Slow and Steady (Physical); Top Catcher (Physical); Mover and Shaker (Physical); The Gazer (Physical); Steady Play (Physical); The Passer (Physical); Thoughtful Gesture (Cognitive)

10 months

Helping Hand (Physical); Follow Me (Cognitive); No Surprises (Cognitive); Little Copy (Cognitive); Peek-a-Corner (Cognitive); Total Recall (Cognitive); Favourite Sounds (Social & Emotional)

11 months

The Cruiser (Physical); Steady Sit (Physical); Puzzle Pieces (Cognitive); The Babbler (Social & Emotional); No No (Social & Emotional); Commando (Social & Emotional)

12 months

Play Choice (Physical); The Listener (Cognitive); Action Thriller (Cognitive); Complete Copy (Social & Emotional); Like Not Play (Social & Emotional); Sound Speaker (Social & Emotional); Pat and Smile (Social & Emotional)

13 – 18 months

Walk the Walk (Physical); In the Box (Physical); Entertainer (Cognitive); The Planner (Cognitive); Special Treater (Cognitive); House Trained (Cognitive); Hugs and Kisses (Social & Emotional)

19 – 24 months

On the Run (Physical); Play Ball (Physical); The Rider (Physical); Block Stacker (Physical); Words at Work (Cognitive); Shape Sorter (Cognitive); Follow Directions (Cognitive); Emotion Ranger (Social & Emotional)

Newborn development, 0-1 months

The first few months are all about cuddling, sleeping and feeding as you and your baby get to know each other. At this point your baby is able see objects and your face – the thing they most like to look at; Fisher-Price™ calls this ‘The Zoom’ milestone. Your baby may follow objects or your face over very short distances as they reach ‘The Watcher’ milestone. They will also start to learn to make social connections, even at this early age. So if she looks at you, make eye contact, smile and talk to her, as this is a very important part in the attachment process. If she starts to look away, that shows she has had enough and is possibly tired. Time for a nap!

FP Rainforest Deluxe Gym 1

2-3 Months

At this age babies become more responsive to sound, as they may reach the ‘Noise Ahead’ and ‘Head Turner’. They may start to enjoy toys that make noise or music, such as the Fisher-Price™ Rainforest Deluxe Gym.

Babies at 2-3 months discover they have hands; initially hands are more open, then are held together in the midline and may hold a rattle (the ‘Play Waver’), then may ‘swipe’ at objects (‘The Swiper’), making the Piano Gym a great toy choice with plenty of dangling toys to swipe at!

Some very important social and emotional development also takes place at this point, with smiling and cooing signaling the start of meaningful communication – this is the ‘All Smiles’ milestone. Encourage this by talking, reading and singing to your baby.

Tummy time is also important to build strength in the arms and upper body and at three months babies may support themselves on their chest and raise their chest while on their tummy as they reach the ‘Elbow Raiser’.

4-5 Months

At this age your baby is sorting out the basics of emotions and communication, such as understanding the link between words, tone of voice and facial expressions. They may try to have a to-and-fro ‘conversation’ with you by listening then trying to ‘reply’. They may start to giggle (‘The Giggles’), recognise familiar faces (‘Curious Baby’), and start to reach and grasp for toys (‘Grip Reacher’).

They will also start to enjoy exploring with some toys, reaching out for their rattle or grasping the dangling toys such as those on the Fisher-Price™ Rainforest Deluxe Gym. Babies at five months may start to roll from their belly onto their back (‘Belly Back Roller’), so it’s a good time to make sure your home is safe for a moving baby!

Most important for your baby’s development is interaction with you; play together, respond to your child’s attempts to communicate, sing songs with actions (e.g. ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ and ‘Row, Row, Your Boat’), read a book, tickle and laugh together.

6-7 months

Your baby may start to sit up, initially with support, and then independently (they’re reaching the ‘Support Sitter’ milestone here) and may even start to ‘creep’ on their tummy (‘Tummy Mover’). Your baby may start to recognise and respond to their own name and names of familiar objects (‘Name Knower’). In order to encourage this continue to talk and read to your baby. Make funny sounds and animal noises when playing with them and sing songs like ‘Old McDonald’ and ‘Five Little Ducks’ that can introduce these concepts too. Your baby is quite a social being and will enjoy games like ‘Pat a Cake’, and ‘Peek a Boo’ – a milestone identified as the ‘Peek and Patter’. At this age babies will also explore objects and toys with both hands and may pick up smaller items with their thumb and index finger (‘Small Pieces’) and will also love banging blocks together.

FP L&L Puppy 1

8-10 months

An important stage in your baby’s understanding is the development of ‘object permanence’, in other words, when an object has dropped out of sight they will look for it (‘Object View’). This can create all sorts of opportunities for fun games. Don’t be surprised if your little one delights in throwing things off their high chair and peering over the edge to look for them! Your baby may also enjoy searching for a favourite toy you have partially hidden, for example under a rug (‘The Searcher’).

They will also continue to develop their communication skills and babble, with vowels first and then consonants (‘Sound Machine’). You may even hear sounds like “mama”, “dada” and “buba” starting to emerge. Toys such as the Fisher-Price™ Laugh and Learn Smart Stages Puppy can be enjoyed at this stage, offering several different modes that are designed to encourage language development.

Your baby’s memory is also developing and they may start to show definite preferences for their favourite person, toys and books. This is the reason you might see stranger awareness/anxiety at this age.

Your baby will learn to anticipate the ‘surprise’ in children’s songs, such as the “pop!” in ‘POP goes the Weasel’ (‘No Surprises’) and will know what to expect from familiar daily routines such as bath time, where they may help with undressing themselves, and meal times (‘Knowing Expecter’).

Crawling (‘Crawlin’) will often start at this age and some babies may try walking whilst holding your hand (‘Helping Hand’). Babies are more steady while sitting and can reach for a toy without falling over (‘Steady Play’).

Your baby may enjoy playing with a ball at this age as they are now able to coordinate their gaze and motor movements to track the movement of the ball and catch it if it is rolled to them (‘Top Catcher’). This is also a great opportunity for sharing and turn taking!

FP Walker -to -Wagon -111-12 Months

Your baby may start to stand unassisted and cruise along furniture (‘The Cruiser’). Fisher-Price’s™ Musical Walker to Wagon is a great toy to steady those first steps. Your baby is also communicating in many ways – pointing, grunting, waving, clapping and often trying to talk as well. Some babies may have some clear words at this age, whilst others will communicate in the other ways mentioned. Their babble will start to have the rise and fall of a conversation. Your baby may understand what “no” means (but won’t necessarily obey!) (‘No No’), and may be able to respond to simple commands such as “Bring me your shoes” (‘Commando’). Your baby will also be expressing emotions such as caution and fear, and express their own needs to you more clearly.

Play continues to be vitally important in your baby’s development, as this is how they learn. Your baby will inspect, shake, bang, throw and drop objects. They will enjoy playing with you and may bring toys to show you. They may show interest in other children, but probably not really play with them just yet (‘Like not Play’). Babies at this age will also show affection with hugs, kisses, smiles and pats (‘Pat and Smile’).

12-18 Months

This is an important time for toddlers as they learn how to walk confidently (‘Walk the Walk’), actively learn and explore through their play, and use trial and error to work things out. They’ll start to build small towers of blocks, scribble with a crayon and move things in and out of a box or shape sorter (‘In the Box’). You will also start to see some pretending in their play, such as pretend cooking, hosting tea parties for teddy, playing with a phone, as well as imitating household routines such as vacuuming or sweeping (‘House Trained’).

Language development does vary at this age however your toddler may have a few words by 15 months and 25 words or more by 18 months. They will understand their name, follow simple commands and be able to point to body parts. They will almost certainly understand “mine”! Your toddler is also becoming more independent by feeding themselves and starting to take off some clothes.

Both indoor and outdoor play are important for your toddler. Try open ended toys such as blocks, pegs, cups of water, ice cream containers, cardboard boxes, wooden spoons and saucepans, crayons and paper and dressing up.

The more talk at this stage the better! Keep naming and talking about everyday things, start to use adjectives and verbs, and read, read, read! Don’t forget screen time such as TV, DVDs, and Tablets are not recommended under the age of three years.

LP Lil Movers Aeroplane 1

18-24 Months

Your toddler’s play may become a lot more imaginative and creative and you will see more pretending in their play. You may see them pretending to feed teddy or playing pretend shops (‘Special Treater’). Fisher-Price™ Little People Lil Movers Aeroplane gives wings to your toddler’s newfound love of pretend play, providing them with objects and characters to fuel their imagination.

Your toddler will continue to express a range of emotions, from separation anxiety (which can peak at around 18 months), to temper tantrums (which are also common), empathy, affection, embarrassment, excitement and possessiveness (‘Emotion Ranger’). The toddler years are all about learning emotion regulation, as well as all those other things like language, toilet training, dressing etc.

Continue to give your toddler plenty of opportunity for open ended, unstructured play. Also give them a chance to play with other children but be prepared to supervise and support - toddlers believe they are the center of the universe and that everything belongs to them! Sharing and turn taking are skills they will learn but won’t have mastered just yet!

Should I be concerned if my child isn’t able to play the games/toys at the specified times?

Developmental progress is quite variable from one child to the next and can be influenced by factors such as prematurity, health issues and family developmental patterns.  For this reason you will notice that the language used here, and on the Fisher-Price PlayIQ™ website is ‘your baby MAY’ not ‘your baby SHOULD’. However, if you are concerned, or suspect a developmental delay, you should seek assessment with your child health nurse or Doctor.

Should I keep repeating a certain game until my child ‘gets it’ or just let them develop at their own rate?

ALWAYS let them develop at their own rate!

Can introducing toys and games from later stages early on encourage my child to develop certain skills early and be advanced?

It is always best to let your baby develop at their own rate and only introduce activities and toys that are developmentally appropriate for the stage that your baby is at. Introducing toys or activities that are too advanced could either be dangerous (e.g. putting your baby in a jumper if they don’t yet have good enough head control), frustrating (e.g. giving a one year old a puzzle meant for a three year old) or just pointless (e.g. giving a newborn a rattle when their hands are still closed!).

Can certain types of toys and games help my child become smarter?

Reading to your baby from a young age and exposing your baby to language and music from a young age is important for later language development and literacy. Play in general, especially child-led, unstructured play, is very important for your child’s development. There is no scientific evidence that playing with specific toys or games results in higher IQ.

This article was published in association with Fisher Price.


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